One relatively small but significant announcement, that might have been missed during Amazon’s new hardware announcements yesterday, is that the new 3rd generation Fire TV will be released with Fire OS 6. This will be the first product to run Amazon’s new operating system, since all other devices, including the soon to be released Fire HD 10 tablet, run Fire OS 5.
Fire OS 6 will be based on Google’s Android 7.1.2 “Nouget” operating system and will support API level 25, which are both the latest released versions. While Google has announced that Android 8 “Oreo” will be released later this year, it’s unrealistic to expect Amazon to incorporate it into Fire OS anytime soon, considering how different Fire OS is compared to stock Android. About 15% of all devices running Android are running Android 7 and less than 2% are running the latest Android 7.1 version, so it’s reassuring to see that the new 4K HDR Fire TV will join the top-tier at launch.
While the version of Android that is running on Amazon’s devices isn’t too important to the device’s out-of-the-box features, it does play an important role for 3rd-party apps. Supporting the latest version of Android means developers can more easily create apps for a particular device because they’ll have access to all of Google’s latest APIs.
Having access to the latest APIs isn’t as important for a device like the Fire TV, since most 3rd-party apps focus on video playback which rarely necessitates the latest APIs. Fire OS 6 will be more important for Amazon’s Fire tablets, whenever it inevitably arrives on those devices, since tablet apps tend to cover a wider gamut of capabilities.
Amazon has said that “all features in Android Nougat are supported on Fire OS 6.” They’ve also said that “apps compatible with the current Amazon Fire TV devices are compatible with the new devices as well.” This helps explain why there will not be a developer preview for Fire OS 6, like there was for Fire OS 5.
It seems Amazon is confident that most Fire TV apps will work on Fire OS 6 with minimal to no changes. This is likely because they appear to be internally testing 3rd-party apps on Fire OS 6 to ensure compatibility prior to launch.
One area Amazon seems to be concerned with for Fire OS 6 on the Fire TV 3 is AV sync within 3rd-party apps. This refers to the synchronization of audio and video during media playback. Amazon has already published a detailed article in their developer documentation that addresses the potential issue, along with suggestions on how developers can fix the issue if their apps encounter it once Fire OS 6 arrives.
It seems, for the most part, that if a 3rd-party video app uses the standard Android MediaPlayer or if it uses the ExoPlayer, which are both available to developers in Fire OS 6, then there shouldn’t be any AV sync issues. It’s mostly when apps use a custom media player, that has full control of audio and video bit streams, that the app may encounter audio synchronization issues.